Vote on Prop. 403 leads to next steps for campus transit

Now that voters have approved Proposition 403, which adds a new route to the city bus service that will link downtown Flagstaff and Woodlands Village through campus, NAU and transit officials are rolling up their sleeves to work out the details.

The approved ballot initiative provides funding for the service to downtown and Woodlands Village. NAU will provide funding for the on-campus service.

The university and the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority, which operates the city buses, signed an agreement in October to integrate NAU’s transit system into NAIPTA’s Mountain Line system. The new service, called Mountain Links, will utilize a fleet of energy-efficient hybrid electric buses, which voters also approved Tuesday.

NAU and NAIPTA will now work on a business plan to establish the details and timelines for bus services on campus.

“The overall goal of Mountain Links is to provide a dependable, convenient alternative to the private automobile in one of Flagstaff’s highest density, most highly traveled corridors,” said Jeff Meilbeck, NAIPTA general manager and 1993 NAU graduate. “Mountain Links, as a partnership between Northern Arizona University and the city of Flagstaff, holds the promise of meeting several shared community goals: reducing congestion, reducing emissions, increasing available parking, and improving the affordability of Flagstaff living.”

NAU and NAIPTA also are beginning work on engineering and design planning for a transportation spine through the center of campus for a dedicated bus route, which has been part of NAU’s long-term master plan.

NAIPTA applied for a federal grant that would fund 80 percent of capital costs for route construction and new transit vehicles. NAU and the city of Flagstaff would share a 20 percent local match of the $10.4 million project total. The grant has been recommended by the Federal Transit Administration.

“Mountain Links will help fulfill several of the university’s goals,” said Rich Bowen, NAU associate vice president for Economic Development. “The dedicated bus route will ensure timely and reliable bus service on campus; the expanded route will provide convenient access for students and employees; and the hybrid electric vehicles will help reduce our impact on the environment.”

Bowen said the university will provide updates to campus as the planning and design process progresses.